Exploring Older Adult Susceptibility to Fraudulent Computer Pop-Up Interruptions

Phillip Morgan, Emma J Williams, Nancy Zook , Gary Christopher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

2 Citations (Scopus)
299 Downloads (Pure)


The proliferation of Internet connectivity and accessibility has been accompanied by an increase in cyber-threats, including fraudulent communications. Fake computer updates, which attempt to persuade people to download malicious software by mimicking trusted brands and/or instilling urgency, are one way in which fraudsters try to infiltrate systems. A recent study of young university students (M 18.52-years) found that when such pop-ups interrupt a demanding cognitive task, participants spent little time viewing them and were more likely to miss suspicious cues and accept these updates compared to when they were viewed without the pressure to resume a suspended task [1]. The aim of the current experiment was to test an older adult sample (N = 29, all >60 years) using the same paradigm. We predicted that they would be more susceptible to malevolent pop-ups [2]; trusting them more than younger adults (e.g., [3]), and would attempt to resume the interrupted task faster to limit forgetting of encoded items. Phase 1 involved serial recall memory trials interrupted by genuine, mimicked, and low authority pop-ups. During phase 2, participants rated messages with unlimited time and gave reasons for their decisions. It was found that more than 70% of mimicked and low authority pop-ups were accepted in Phase 1 vs ~80% genuine pop-ups (and these were all approximately 10% higher than [1]). This was likely due to a greater tendency to ignore or miss suspicious content when performing under pressure, despite spending longer with messages and reporting high awareness of scam techniques than younger adults. Older adult participants were more suspicious during Phase 2 performing comparably to the younger adults in [1]. Factors that may impact older adult decisions relating to fraudulent computer communications are discussed, as well as theoretical and practical implications.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Human Factors in Cybersecurity
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the AHFE 2018 International Conference on Human Factors in Cybersecurity, July 21-25, 2018, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida, USA
EditorsTareq Z. Ahram, Denise Nicholson
PublisherSpringer, Cham
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9783319947822
ISBN (Print)9783319947815
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2018
EventAHFE International Conference on Human Factors in Cybersecurity, 2018 - Orlando, United States
Duration: 21 Jul 201825 Jul 2018

Publication series

NameAdvances in Intelligent Systems and Computing
ISSN (Print)2194-5357


ConferenceAHFE International Conference on Human Factors in Cybersecurity, 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States

Structured keywords

  • MGMT Marketing and Consumption


  • Cyber Security
  • Susceptibility
  • Older Adults
  • Task Interruption


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